There is life after the Commission: An empirical analysis of private interest representation by former EU-commissioners, 1981–2009


Our sample includes 92 former EU commissioners who left the seven Commissions serving from 1981 to 2009. We find that 36 (39%) became private interest representatives after leaving the Commission—14 with registered institutions, 22 with non-registered institutions. Our probit analysis shows that an ex-commissioner is significantly more likely to turn lobbyist if he or she is still young and has been in charge of competition, the internal market, industry or taxation. At the 10% level of significance, the probability is lower if the commissioner has been proposed by a left wing government, has stepped down after the introduction of the code of conduct (1999) or has retired from the Delors I Commission, and the probability is higher for commissioners from central Europe. The descriptive statistics reveal in addition that the share of private interest representatives in all ex-commissioners is largest for Portuguese, Austrian, Bulgarian and Maltese commissioners and zero for Scandinavians. With regard to the commissioners’ training, 48% of the lawyers but only 35% of the economists have become lobbyists. Commissioners who have turned private interest representatives have on average stayed somewhat longer (6.3 years) with the Commission than the others (5.5 years). Registered lobbyism is significantly more likely than non-registered lobbyism if the ex-commissioner is a lawyer, has been in charge of competition, the internal market, industry or taxation and—at the 10% level—has been proposed by a left wing government.

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  1. 1.

    For a detailed analysis see Vaubel (2009: 37–40).

  2. 2.

    Falke (1996: 132).

  3. 3.

    Corijn et al. (2009).

  4. 4.

    Useful surveys of the literature on EU lobbying are provided by Coen (2007) and Hix and Høyland (2011, Ch. 7).

  5. 5.

    E.g., Mazey and Richardson (1999).

  6. 6.

    Since 1999, there has also been a separate vote on the president alone.

  7. 7.

    The register has been opened in June 2008 and is published under By registering, the lobbyists obtain the right to receive alerts for consultations in their areas of interest, and they commit themselves to abide by a code of conduct. For a detailed description and analysis of the code of conduct see Obradovic (2009). We assume that firms and interest associations which have registered since 2008 have followed a policy of open interest representation also before that year. The most recent and complete data base on the types of registered organizations, their territorial level or country of origin is Wonka et al. (2010). Berkhout and Lowery (2008) compare various data sources.

  8. 8.

    Kinnock has headed the British Council. Burke was appointed director of the Stichting Canon Foundation, a research institution. Delors is president of the think tank Notre Europe. Van den Broek is active in the Rights Forum and a Dutch foreign policy institution. Schreyer works for the European Movement and the Collège d’Europe.

  9. 9.

    In 2003, the respective shares were 16.8% for the British firms, 10.8% for the French and the German firms, 5.1% for the Italian, 3.8% for the Dutch and 2.5% for the Swedish firms (Coen 2009, Table 8.4).

  10. 10.

    The Commissioners’ education has also been analyzed by MacMullen (2001).

  11. 11.

    The crucial changes were Articles 100a and 118a introduced by the Single European Act. Moreover, the Social Agreement of Maastricht established qualified majority voting for several types of labor market regulation. More than 50 labor regulations have been adopted since 1989 (for a list see Vaubel 2008, Table 1).

  12. 12.

    See Hoedeman (2010: 105).

  13. 13.

    Besides the number of interest groups, Broscheid and Coen (2007) report data on the fora, the personnel and the policy units for each Directorate General (DG) of the Barroso I Commission. At conventional levels of significance, these variables do not affect the probability of ex-commissioners turning lobbyists either, neither in simple correlations nor in a multiple regression including the number of interest groups. However, this may be due to the very small number of observations (n = 13). These data are not available for earlier Commissions.

  14. 14.

    “Central Europe” includes Austria, Germany, the Benelux countries and France, “Southern Europe” Cyprus, Greece, Italy, Malta, Spain and Portugal, “Eastern Europe” the former Warsaw Pact states, and “Northern Europe” the Scandinavian countries, the UK and Ireland.

  15. 15.

    The respective policy briefs are Budget, Regional policy, and Environment (see Table 7).

  16. 16.

    The presented AMEs take into account that, logically, most of our dummies are categories of superordinate categorical variables such as party orientation, education, commission, and region. For a technical discussion of AMEs for dummy variables see Bartus (2005: 315–320).

  17. 17.

    We also ran a regression including the years in office. The coefficient turned out to be completely insignificant, however.


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Table 11 Retiring members of the European Commission, 1981–2009

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Vaubel, R., Klingen, B. & Müller, D. There is life after the Commission: An empirical analysis of private interest representation by former EU-commissioners, 1981–2009. Rev Int Organ 7, 59–80 (2012).

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  • European Union
  • European Commission
  • Interest groups
  • Lobbying

JEL codes

  • F53
  • F55